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On this day in history, July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr mortally wounds Alexander Hamilton in duel

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Aaron Burr, who was serving as President Thomas Jefferson’s vice president, mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury, in a pistol duel on this day in history, July 11, 1804. 

Burr had long had a politically motivated feud with Hamilton.

The feud culminated in a request from Burr for a duel. 

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“Thus, sir,” Burr wrote to Hamilton, “you have invited the course I am about to pursue, and now your silence impose it upon me.” 

While dueling was illegal in both New Jersey and New York, dueling carried a less harsh penalty in New Jersey, notes the National Park Service’s website. 

Burr and Hamilton agreed to a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, on the morning of July 11, 1804.

Three years earlier, Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, died in a duel at the same place, said the National Parks Service.

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Nathaniel Pendleton, a former federal judge, served as Hamilton’s “second” in the duel. 

Burr’s second was William Van Ness, who would serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1814 until his death in 1826, said the National Parks Service.

What happened during the duel itself is murky. 

The role of the “second” was to load the pistols and “for representing their principles to the other party, and acting as field assistants.”

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A medical doctor, Dr. David Hosack, was present on the scene. 

What happened during the duel itself is murky, as everyone present turned away to maintain some sense of deniability and avoid legal consequences, according to the History Channel’s website.

black and white carving of the Hamilton/Burr duel

“Who shot first is a mystery, and various accounts report different versions of story,” said the National Parks Service. 

“But what is consistent in the record is that there were two shots heard within seconds of each other.”

Hamilton’s shot missed Burr entirely. 

Hamilton’s own writings prior to the duel suggested he would miss Burr on purpose.

Burr’s struck Hamilton in the abdomen, and Hamilton fell to the ground. 

Hamilton’s own writings prior to the duel suggested he would miss Burr on purpose.

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“I have resolved to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts of even reserving my second fire,” he wrote. 

Pendleton reportedly confirmed Hamilton’s intent to miss Burr on the first shot. 

reenactment of burr/hamilton duel

Hamilton never got the chance to decide what to do with his second shot: The duel was over. 

Pendleton rushed to Hamilton’s side; the two were soon joined by Hosack. 

Hamilton, still conscious, reportedly told Hosack, “This is a mortal wound, Doctor.”

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s self-assessment would prove correct.

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The wounded Founding Father was brought to Manhattan to his friend William Bayard Jr.’s house, said the National Parks Service. 

“Eliza and the children, who were eight miles north at The Grange, were sent for. They arrived at the Bayard home in time for a final farewell,” said the website.

The cast of Hamilton on opening night

Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, at age 47. 

“Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths, and the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton,” noted the History Channel. 

“Charged with murder, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term [as vice president] immune from prosecution.”

Hamilton’s legacy has continued well into the 20th and 21st centuries. 

In 1918, his likeness was put on the $1,000 bill, said the U.S. Currency Education Program. 

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“These notes were not circulated among the public and were only used for large transactions between Federal Reserve Banks,” said the website for the U.S. Currency Education Program. 

Ten years later, Hamilton’s face was put on a much more commonly used bill: the $10 bill, the same website said. 

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In 2015, the Treasury Department announced that Hamilton’s would be removed from the $10 bill in favor of an image of Harriet Tubman.  

The following year, that decision was reversed — and Tubman instead was going to replace President Andrew Jackson’s face on the $20 bill.  

An uncut sheet of many $10 bills

While it was not confirmed that the wild success of the 2015 Broadway musical “Hamilton” was responsible for its titular figure remaining on the $10 bill, the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda told Fox News Latino that the situation was “crazy.” 

“What I’ll tell you is that the first person to put women on currency was Alexander Hamilton. He put Lady Liberty on the earliest U.S. currency — before all of y’all,” he told Fox News Latino in 2016. 

“So I think he’d be thrilled that women are being represented in our currency.” 

“Hamilton” portrays Alexander Hamilton’s life in two acts, including how a variety of other historical figures influenced his life. 

It was based on the 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow.

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